OPINION: Low-carb diets ineffective

As published on the Sentinel

Even though healthy, dietary lifestyle changes have increased in popularity, the more unsustainable fad diets like low-carb diets still remain popular in our diet culture. Because of the severe restriction of carbohydrates, low-carb diets only result in temporary weight loss and can lead to dangerous effects on the mind and body.

Diets should include a balanced variety of all food groups — fruits, grains, vegetables and dairy. Diets can be altered according to allergies and different lifestyles, but the USDA still pushes for balanced nutrients in each meal.

Carbohydrates are the main fuel source for the entire body, including the brain and muscles. Complex carbohydrates are starchy and rich in fiber, while simple carbohydrates are sugars that are digested the fastest. The best carbohydrates to eat are whole grains, such as brown rice and whole grain bread. Low-carb diets, like the Keto diet, promote an intake of little to no carbs and high in proteins and fats.

“Low-carb diets label food as ‘good or bad,’” registered dietitian Bethany Wheeler said. “This sends a shameful narrative of food.

Eliminating carbs from your diet all together can result in ketosis, a condition where the body becomes extremely fatigued and experiences muscle weakness, insomnia, irritability and changes in the digestive system. Our bodies need carbs because they are essential to the process of breaking food down into cellular energy. According to Wheeler, this complex shift cannot go forward without the presence of carbs.

While low-carb diets may result in quicker weight loss, the weight is almost guaranteed to return. According to the Mayo Clinic, “most studies have found that at 12 or 24 months, the benefits of a low-carb diet are not very large.”

Low-carb diets are such a drastic shift from our ‘typical’ nutrient intake that they are not sustainable. Our body needs nutrients to function.

Your body doesn’t want to starve or be deprived of the foods it deserves. Rather than focusing on eliminating certain food groups and nutrients, practice intuitive eating. Eat what you can and listen to your body’s needs. Instead of trying to clear your plate each meal, eat slowly until your body knows it’s full.

“Intuitive eating increases awareness of your body cues and learning how to trust your body,” says Wheeler.

Falling into the trend of low-carb diets, or any fad diet promotes the cultural desire to be thin. While it’s important to take care of your body, being healthy doesn’t always mean being society’s view of beauty. This obsession with thinness and dieting is not overlooked by our tiniest observers, who pay attention to the way we talk about and that our bodies.

In a study by Beth A. Abramovitz and Leann L. Birch, “dieting, weight concerns, and body dissatisfaction have all been reported in children as young as age 7 to 9 years … with approximately 40 percent of elementary school-aged girls reporting that they have tried to diet to lose weight.”

Fad diets target individuals who want to “alter or change their body size, or to bring more value or worth to themselves,” says Wheeler. “This is not helpful. Fad diets aren’t the only cause of eating disorders, but they definitely set the stage for them to develop.”

Because diet culture is so difficult to navigate, it’s easy to see why so many fad and low-carb diets become so popular. In a climate where our self-worth is connected to our health status, these diets are extremely persuading. However, low-carb diets subtract nutrients essential to our physiology and are unsustainable.

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